What to do in the Garden in October

Lawn care – autumn renovation


After the heat of summer your lawn may be looking a little worse for wear. Start by giving your lawn a good cut, including the edges.

If you haven’t had a chance to mow the lawn and it’s got very long it will need mowing twice, once on a high setting and then again on a lower setting to neaten the first cut. Pushing a lawnmower into long grass is bad for the mower and will result in the blunting of blades, clogging of the mower and the possibility of damage to the engine. It will also result in a very rough looking cut.


Moss, debris and ‘thatch’ (dead grass) can build up over the summer, to keep your lawn in top condition it needs to be removed in October and again in the spring.

If you have a large lawn it may be worthwhile hiring a scarifier, otherwise the same job can be done using a wire rake (although it is quite a vigorous task!). Starting at one end of the garden, rake through the grass pulling out the moss or ‘thatch’ as you go. Work your way across the lawn until the whole area has been scarified.


Collect any moss you remove whilst scarifying and store somewhere dry until the spring to use for lining hanging baskets. Moss is one of the most attractive hanging basket liners and makes side planting easy. It’s recommended that you initially line the basket with plastic and then push the moss in around the outside.


Aerating a lawn is tiring work with a fork but well worth it for a beautiful, green lawn. Start at one end and work your way backwards, pushing the fork into the ground at least every 6 inches. Repeat this process until the entire lawn has been aerated.


Apply sulphate of iron

Sulphate of iron is the key to an emerald-green, moss-free lawn. Only apply on dull days when rain is forecast within the next few days, an application on a hot day will scorch the grass. Sulphate of iron will give your lawn a blackish tinge for a few days, in this time it’s important not to walk on it. As soon as it rains and washes the Sulphate of iron in thoroughly, the lawn will take on a beautiful deep green colour.

Sulphate of iron stains fabric  so wear old clothes and remember to take your boots off before you go back in the house!

Prune fruit trees

Any upward growing shoots can be removed completely to retain the tree’s original frame. Dead wood may also be apparent in October and should be sawn off.

How can you tell the difference between dead and live wood?

Deadwood is brittle and often already broken in places. A gardener’s rule for testing on less obvious wood is to carefully scrape back a small fragment of bark either with a knife or, if possible, with your fingernail and if it’s green underneath it’s alive, if it’s brown underneath it’s dead.


Start raking leaves

Rakey Rakey! It’s time to blow the dust off your best leafing equipment and start collecting the leaves that drop on your lawn, beds and borders – don’t forget to put the leaves on your compost heap.

Keep a pile of leaves to one side, they’ll make an ideal hibernation spot for wildlife – but remember not to disturb it until the ground thaws in spring!

Pinch out spring flowering bedding plants

When you receive plug plants in the post in autumn they can often appear to be a bit leggy. There’s nothing to worry about, they will push out naturally as soon as they’re planted out, but to help them along you can pinch them out. It’s easy to do, simply pinch off the growing tip just above a lower down node (where the plant branches out) about half way up the stem. This can be done with your thumb and forefinger.

You can find more details about pinching out here.

Cut back perennials

Many varieties, such as Asters, Chrysanthemums and Delphiniums continue to show their flowers well into the autumn but  those that still look good should be left until they’re well and truly finished, others that have started to die back should be cut right down to 2 – 3 inches above ground level.

If you have a large herbaceous border it can take a long time to cut back all the stems with secateurs and it can cause strain on the hands and wrists. The same job can be done more rapidly with shears.

Some perennials, such as Echinacea, Acanthus, Eryngium and Honesty produce attractive seed heads after flowering and produce a stunning show through the winter. Plants that you keep for seed heads over the winter can be cut back in January instead.

Remove canes and stakes

As you cut your perennials back more and more canes and stakes will be left in your borders with no use until next spring. To make sure you have a lovely winter garden, take in all the canes and store them somewhere dry until it’s time for them to go out again in the spring.

Plant bulbs

Now’s the time to plant spring flowering bulbs. Generally bulbs should be planted at three times their own depth. Use a trowel or bulb planter to create a hole for each bulb. Position the bulb (pointed end upwards) at the bottom of the hole and replace the soil. The bulbs will remain dormant until the spring when you’ll begin to see their leaves emerging through the soil.



1. You can create a woodland effect by planting bulbs under trees and shrubs, such as Bluebells and Primulas.

2. The pink-ish purple of Anemone blanda really sets off the vibrant yellow of Narcissus Tete-a-Tete and is a great combination for beds and borders.

3. Try planting Tulips in containers with low growing plants such as Pansies for a colourful display.

Dig up tuberous plants for storing over winter

It’s important to get round to this before the first frosts arrive in order to avoid the risk of damage on tender tuberous plants, such as Cannas, Dahlias and Begonias.

How to store tubers

Once you have dug your tubers from the ground they need to be stored in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight over the winter. Either cardboard or wooden wine boxes are ideal for storing tubers.

1. Dust off any excess soil from the tubers.

2. Position the tubers side by side (not on top of each other) in the boxes.

3. Place the boxes in a dry place out of direct sunlight and keep them there until January, when they can be potted up and grown on in the greenhouse.


Leave fat treats out for the birds

Winter is a difficult time of year for birds. Make sure your garden birds are well prepared for the cold months to come by ordering in plenty of fat treats in now to last for the winter.




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